The G25 Group of former senior civil servants has called for the Federal Constitution to be amended to state clearly that both parents should be required to consent to the conversion of a child.
G25 also urged the Federal Government to restore the words “ibu bapa” in the Bahasa Malaysia (BM) version of the constitution and pointed out that the 2002 edition of the BM version had used “ibu atau bapa” for the word “parent”.
In a statement today, the group implied that the constitution had been been amended – without a formal amendment passed by Parliament – in changing the meaning of the word “parent” as used in the BM version of the constitution.
G25 said: “Clearly, for the word ‘ibu bapa’ to be changed to ‘ibu atau bapa’ would require an amendment to the Federal Constitution. But from what could be ascertained, there has been no such amendment.”
The G25 statement was made regarding the government’s plans to amend the law on civil marriages and divorce (Act 164) to give civil courts jurisdiction over civil marriages and divorce and related matters on custody and guardianship.
The prime minister, Najib Razak, had announced that amendments to the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976 would be tabled in the Dewan Rakyat in October to end a long-standing conflict in jurisdiction between civil courts and shariah courts.
Welcoming the prime minister’s announcement, G25 hoped that the amendments would end the “injustices suffered by non-Muslim wives” at civil courts since the Shamala case in 2004, where a husband converts to Islam and also converts the children without the wife’s consent.
“The common factor in all these cases was that the unilateral conversion was done to spite the wife and deny her custody of the children,” G25 said, and urged the government to amend the constitution as well, in order to nullify a Federal Court decision in the Subashini case in 2008, when the court ruled that the word “parent” meant either parent and not both parents.
G25 said the Bar Council and many legal experts believed the Federal Court ruling was wrong and that the constitution stated that words of the masculine gender included females and words in the singular include plural and vice versa.
G25 urged the government to nullify the Federal Court decision in the Subashini case by amending Article 12(4) of the constitution to make it very clear that the word “parent” meant both parents and not just a single parent.